Lollapalooza celebrated its 25th anniversary by becoming bigger than ever before: The music festival expanded from three to four days at its home base of Chicago's Grant Park and packed in as many newcomers and Lolla vets as possible over the decade-spanning weekend. Beyond the performances, the festival grounds were filled with fun activities and delicious food for fans who needed a break from dancing and singing along at the many stages of Perry Farrell's long-running summer celebration. Here are 25 of the best things we saw at Lollapalooza 2016.
Future has had three Number One albums since last year and multiple hit radio singles and club bangers: The Atlanta rapper could have easily headlined one of the nights at Lollapalooza, but instead delivered a career-defining, career-spanning performance on Friday afternoon. On stage, Future is charming, flashing his billion dollar smile at every turn as every single one of his lyrics is rapped back at him. Even though he raps that the industry "tried to make a pop star and they made a monster," he proves otherwise with his live show, flanked by a pair of b-boy dancers, speaking out on police brutality with earnestness and reworking songs like "My Savages" and "No Basic" for a live setting. Plus, he invited out Chance the Rapper so that the Chicago native could treat fans to his second delivery of "No Problem" of the weekend.
Besides Jane's Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the other Lolla act at this special, extended 25th Anniversary weekend with deep roots to the festival and its history. RHCP first toured with the alt-fest 24 years ago just as they were becoming mainstream rock staples, and now the band has become a legacy act of funky rap-rock. The quartet deepened their new calling with one of the weekend's most unifying and fun jam sessions, powering through new and old hits. The back-to-back blaze of singles at the beginning of their set was perfect: "Can't Stop," "Dani California," "Scar Tissue," "Otherside" and "Dark Necessities." The band did "By the Way" and "Give It Away" for the encore and still had hits to spare.
As expected, Thom Yorke busted out some of the best dance moves of the weekend during Radiohead's Friday headlining slot on Friday. He slithered with eyes closed during songs like "Weird Fish/Arpeggi," "Everything in Its Right Place" and "Nude" as the stage lights flashed rapidly around him. For their second encore, the band offered up "Karma Police" as their finale, providing one of the most sing-a-long-ready moments of their time on stage.
Lana Del Rey has been diving deeper into the mod campiness of her music, and her stage show looks better than ever because of it. Clad in a white baby-doll dress, the singer was constantly flanked by back-up singers and dancers dressed in the same fashion — like a Sixties girl group ready to sing "Leader of the Pack" at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, her stage bore the same romantic moodiness of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, creating the ideal vibe for Del Rey's romantic and moody music. With such a great set surrounding her, Del Rey gave a stunning vocal performance that was complemented with perfectly subtle choreography as she belted cheeky songs like "Cola" and "High by the Beach," played guitar on deep cut "Yayo" and delivered a lush grand finale with "Video Games" and "Off to the Races."
LCD Soundsystem may have been this year's most surprising reunion — given that they called it quits only four years ago — but the dance-rock group turned out to be the most cathartic way to end four long days in Grant Park. Balancing braininess with fun, LCD never sways too far to either end in their live show, providing the perfect and most stirring outlet for fans to leave it all on the ground as they danced out their final hours at the festival. While every moment felt like a highlight, the final half was particularly rousing, with James Murphy crooning "New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down" like Sinatra, the dance break in "Dance Yrself Clean" jolting the audience alive and the festival's actual finale, "All My Friends," providing one of the weekend's most life-affirming sing-alongs.
Doors on Thursday opened 40 minutes later than expected due to a rain delay, and attendees were fearful of what else could be delayed or canceled over the course of the weekend. Poncho-wearing music fans hovered around the towers off the main entrance off Congress to read video stating that the festival was monitoring the storms in the area. Luckily, none of the sets were pushed back or even canceled, though some stages experienced some technical difficulties. By the time headliners for both Thursday and Friday came on, the rain was long gone, and the weekend cleared up entirely in time for Saturday and Sunday.
Entering the Samsung Stage through sparks and smoke, Jane's Addiction were one of the festival's few spectacles. Singer and festival creator Perry Farrell had the outfit to match, sporting a lavender suit and fedora as he played both ringmaster and David Blaine. The band was flanked by a bevy of scantily clad dancers, including Farrell's wife Etty Lau, who danced on poles and hung from harnesses above the stage while flailing aimlessly. Every one of their tricks was excessive and over-the-top, but the band was fully committed, as Dave Navarro moodily shredded through "Been Caught Stealing" and "Mountain Song" — where he was briefly out-shredded by special guest Tom Morello. Farrell clutched on to an amp between his singing as if his bandmates were jolting him back to life.
Tom Morello's guest spot during X Ambassadors was not entirely a surprise — the Prophets of Rage guitarist and band both announced it days prior to their Saturday set — but it definitely felt like the crowd was witnessing something particularly special. After X Ambassador's previous guest Jamie N Commons left the Samsung stage, Morello popped in for his collaboration with the Ithaca, New York band, "Collider." Further solidifying his status as one of the great alternative rock guitarists of all time, Morello electrified the stunned audience during the mid-afternoon appearance, giving the rawest, most transcendent guitar solo of weekend and delivering on the promise he made when he entered, that the song was "gonna mess you up." As he played with his teeth, the always politically vocal Morello revealed a sign on the back of his axe that read "Nobody For President."
Just last year, Halsey performed on the very tiny BMI stage; now the bona fide pop superstar got a prime Sunday afternoon slot on the massive Samsung Stage. Halsey swaggered and belted songs off her debut Badlands like a veteran performer, commanding the audience in a transfixing manner as "New Americana" and "Castle" exploded out of the speakers. Between songs, Halsey's banter was off-the-cuff and honest, the singer even calling her songs "stupid" in relation to the bigger things happening in the news and in politics. Keeping with the theme, she offered up her shows as a safe space to anyone no matter their sexual orientation, gender or race. During finale "Colors," her charisma seemed both natural and potent.
A true Chicagoan knows that the best fried chicken in and around the city comes from Harold's. Visitors from out-of-town and locals alike were able to partake in the suburban delicacy in Lolla's Chow Town South where a stand was erected for the hungry festivalgoers. Both the chicken and the fried okra were popular meals, breaking up the choices between more unusual fare like lobster corndogs and the several pizza stands.
Over near the Pepsi stage in the northern half of Grant Park, Lolla's craft beers tent — Da Beers — served as the perfect spot to escape both the rain and the heat. The main, huge bar area featured a large space covered with a roof where hoards of unprepared roamers camped out during the heaviest rain on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday and Sunday, the shaded area filled with benches and games like cornhole and ping-pong became a popular reprieve from the heat between treks across the lengthy grounds.
Haim are festival pros, with their brand of throwback-y California rock basically existing to be performed outdoors and for large crowds of music-lovers. Sisters Alana, Danielle and Este are natural, now-seasoned performers, breathing new life into songs off 2013's Days Are Gone, like "The Wire" and "If I Could Change Your Mind." They debuted new songs like the Peter Gabriel-meets-Wilson Phillips "Nothing's Wrong," but really revved up the exhausted Sunday crowd with a drum solo featuring all three sisters and drummer Dash Hutton who all banged in unison for a few minutes of heart-revving bliss towards the end of their set.
Chicago's very own Vic Mensa turned his set into a protest, speaking out on the water crisis in Flint and the inaccessibility of such an expensive music festival to the poorer communities of the city where it takes place. Much of his performance featured a team of dancers sporting the type of riot gear typically worn by police officers and featured an on-stage wedding between two of the dancers during the LGBTQ rights song "Free Love." A pantomime of Mensa being held down by the officers during the song "16 Shots," recalled the death of Laquan McDonald. After the raucous "U Mad," the officers pointed their weapons at Mensa as he stood on top of a platform above the stage, a powerful image for the rising rapper.
Alessia Cara was placed on a side stage this year, but judging by the crowd that was spilling out into Chow Town, the 20-year-old will soon be gathering those fans for a spot on a main stage in prime time. Cara's voice sounded like it was filling up the entirety of Grant Park as she blazed through songs off her debut album Know-It-All and EP Four Pink Walls, showing off all the tricks she's learned opening up for Coldplay on their stadium tour. In between songs, Cara was a natural at offering empowering anecdotes and advice, especially before singles "Scars to Your Beautiful" and "Here" that got the entire space singing along.
The 1975 took the stage just as the sun was preparing to go down on Thursday, and the indie pop act was the perfect group to usher in a cooler, dryer evening. Singer Matty Healy took the stage in a pastel suit, introducing the 1975 as "your new favorite band," which may have proved to be true for some lingering around to catch them before Lana Del Rey performed there later that night. Using the massive towers that are featured in their current stage show, the 1975 filled the Bud Light stage with pinks and purples for a sleek, gorgeous set while dancing to sweet, catchy tunes like "Love Me," "Ugh!" and "Girls."
Long Beach, California's Vince Staples drew not only the most diverse crowd of the festival's entire weekend, but he also kept them in check better than any other artist. Staples lightly teased and threatened his fans, noting that he would risk arrest to beat up anyone who threw things at him, even telling one fan he would "slap" him for his annoying antics in the front row. All of Staples comments were — mostly — in jest and delivered in the same dry, off-the-cuff style that makes his Twitter a standout and songs so brilliant.
The Petrillo Bandshell was ill-equipped for the number of fans that crowded the area to see Third Eye Blind, a band who hasn't charted a pop hit in more than 15 years. The stage, adjacent to the much larger space of the Bud Light Stage, faced a consistently growing number of fans to catch 3EB's Lolla debut. The set-up and placement of the bandshell — the sole pre-existing stage in Grant Park — made it difficult for some audience members to see and hear the stage from certain angles but that did not deter them from sticking around to belt out the lyrics to classic songs like "Jumper," "Semi-Charmed Life" and "Never Let You Go."
No one seems 100% sure who Marshmello really is but the mystery of his identity mixed with his sweetly chaotic blend of EDM makes him festival gold. One of the weekend's biggest crowds for the Perry's Stage formed for the white helmeted DJ on Saturday as he powered through pop and hip-hop hits like Jack Ü and Justin Bieber's "Where Are Ü Now," Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" and Desiigner's "Panda" above pure bass. At one point, A$AP Ferg popped on stage for a performance of "New Level" that made the entire crowd go bonkers.
The death of Harambe the gorilla — who was shot after a child fell into his enclosure at the Cincinatti Zoo— has gone the way of many other shocking news stories: It has become an internet meme. Harambe jokes litter Twitter and Tumblr and have crossed over into festival season, with many tank-top bros sporting signs emblazoned with "Justice 4 Harambe" and other notes to the late gorilla throughout the weekend. It was one of the weirder festival props in a weekend filled with Steve Buscemi heads and Disney character balloons.
U.K. electronic music duo Snakehips provided one of the more soothing dance parties of the weekend. It came with perfect timing on Sunday afternoon as the weekend began to wrap up. Snakehips eased the crowd into the evening with their silky, dreamy beats and remixes, while featuring cuts like Baauer's "GoGo!" and Soulja Boy's "Crank That" in full. Naturally, they wrapped up their time with "All My Friends," their hit collaboration with Tinashe and Chance the Rapper, though the latter, sadly, did not show up for the song as he had done throughout the weekend for other sets.
"Y'all mind if I take it back to 1996 for a minute?" Leon Bridges asked before launching into his slowed-down take on unofficial Magic Mike theme song "Pony" by Ginuwine. He probably had to ask since his Sam Cooke-reminiscent sound is so deeply indebted to the early Sixties. Bridges dedicated the sexy "Pony" to all the bachelors looking for a partners across the festival grounds. The cover was a brief moment for the rising star to take a break between running across the stage and shimmying between his band members on songs like "Lisa Sawyer" and "Twistin' and Groovin'."
The rain was hitting hardest during Mø's Friday set, making for a muddy ground and several technical difficulties. The Danish singer handled all of it in stride, graciously thanking her audience for sticking with her as her microphone cut in and out. For the finale, she gave her all, performing her Major Lazer collaboration "Lean On" as fans danced in the downpour and she made her way to the barricade. Once there she performed the song's final chorus while crowd surfing over the first few rows of the audience. Later, Major Lazer experienced even worse technical difficulties — experiencing two power outages during their headlining set — but all was resolved just in time for Mø to reprise "Lean On."
Lana Del Rey may be the reigning Sad Girl Queen of pop, but even with LDR's Thursday closing set, Kiiara took home the crown for the weekend. The Illinois native and musical newcomer performed her set in an oversized raincoat under grey clouds, which meshed wonderfully with her Kitty Pryde-esque cloud-rapping and minimalist beats. Between tracks off her debut EP Low Kii Savage, Kiiara debuted new material from her upcoming album, which showed that she more coming in the vein of her left-field alt-pop hit "Gold."
Kehlani's Thursday afternoon set was peppered with rain and audio issues, but the singer pushed forward and gave a spirited performance early on in the weekend. After a tough personal year, the R&B star proved that it's possibly to triumph over tragedy. She was all smiles as she blazed through songs off her 2015 mixtape You Should Be Here, like standouts "Jealous" and "The Way."